If you’ve had a vision screening recently, you might say, “My vision is fine! I don’t need a comprehensive eye exam.”
But a vision screening provides a limited perspective on the overall health of your eyes. It’s a bit like getting your blood pressure checked and not getting the rest of your annual physical. You’ll have useful information. But it’s not the whole picture.
VIsion screenings generally only focus on the ability to see letters at a distance. Other important items of an eye exam, such as color vision, peripheral vision, focusing ability, for example are very important elements in determining how well the eyes work together. Unfortunately, some individuals can compensate for their prescription for a short time, allowing them to pass a screening despite an ocular condition that should be treated. Difficulties in any of these areas can affect ocular comfort as well as school or work performance.
Most vision screenings are performed by a school nurse, volunteer at a festival, or a nurse in a primary care doctors office. Many of these individuals do not have the proper tools or knowledge to provide a complete assessment of your vision or eye health. As they generally do not include a dilated retinal evaluation, they are unable to assess the eye for conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and more.
Comprehensive eye exams evaluate all aspects of your vision and eye health.
The comprehensive eye exam looks at your eye externally and internally for any signs of eye disease, then tests your vision in a variety of ways.
External Exam - This is an evaluation of the whites of your eyes, the iris, pupil, eyelids, and eyelashes.
Internal Exam - This is an evaluation of the retina and optic nerve while your eyes are dilated.
Visual Function and Eye Health - This includes testing depth perception, color vision, peripheral vision and response of the pupils to light, as well as an evaluation of eye focusing, eye teaming and eye movement abilities.
Glaucoma Testing - This is a test of fluid pressure within your eyes to check for the possibility of glaucoma.
Visual Acuity - Your doctor will test your vision with different lenses to determine if glasses or contact lenses can improve your vision.
Comprehensive eye exams look at your total health history.
Even though you visit a separate office for your eye health, that doesn’t mean your eyes shouldn’t be treated holistically. Your eye doctor will discuss your overall health and that of your immediate family, any medications you’re taking and whether you have high blood pressure or diabetes. They’ll also want to know if you smoke and how much sun exposure you get. All these factors help the eye doctor properly assess your eye health.
Comprehensive eye exams are performed by eye professionals.
Eye doctors are highly trained. Optometrists examine the eyes for visual defects, diagnose problems or impairments, and prescribe corrective lenses. After a bachelor's degree, optometrists complete a four-year program to obtain their Doctor of Optometry degree. As a Doctor, they are comfortable prescribing glasses and contact lenses as well as treating ocular conditions such as infections, glaucoma and injuries. If your ocular condition requires surgery or injections as part of your treatment plan, you will be referred to an Ophthalmologist who specializes in the part of the eye in need of treatment. If needed, our doctors will help determine which specialist is right for you.
Hopefully, this blog has given you the incentive to get a comprehensive eye exam -- even if you recently had a passing vision screening. The American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam every one to two years, depending on your overall health. The State of New Hampshire requires yearly examinations for all contact lens wearers.